Law Reform Commission to seek views on death penalty

By Moses Walubiri

Under Article 22 of Uganda's constitution, the right life to life is sacrosanct

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Uganda Law Reform Commission (ULRC), despite describing the death penalty as "constitutional and befitting of serious offences" has mooted the idea of getting views of Ugandans about the need to retain the ‘ultimate punishment' on Uganda's law books.

ULRC is established under Article 248(1) of the Constitution. Its primary mandate is to study and keep under constant review the Acts and all other laws comprising the laws of Uganda with a view to making recommendations for their systematic improvement, development, modernization and reform.

"The commission proposes a comprehensive study to establish the views of the people on the position of the death penalty in Uganda," ULRC's chairperson, Vastina Rukimirana told lawmakers sitting on the committee of legal and parliamentary affairs committee of Parliament earlier today.

Rukimirana with ULRC assistant commissioner, Jeroline Akubu and ULRC secretary, Omara Abong, were at parliament to proffer the commission's views on The Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, 2015.

The piece of legislation, a private member's bill that was introduced in the Ninth Parliament by then Serere woman MP, Alice Alaso, seeks to amend various provisions in a number of legislations that provide for death penalty as a mandatory or discretional sentence in certain offences.

Besides seeking to abolish mandatory death penalty, the bill also seeks to abolish discretionary death penalty and substitute it with life imprisonment in other cases.

The Bill is informed by the Supreme Court ruling in the Susan Kigula case where the court declared mandatory death penalty unconstitutional on account of fettering discretion of judges.

Under Article 22 of Uganda's constitution, the right life to life is sacrosanct, save for execution of a sentence passed by a court of competent jurisdiction.

However, the finality of the death penalty has is a cause of concern for those raise the specter of sending an innocent person to the gallows.